Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Camel safari
The valley is a clump of spectacularly colored sandstone bluffs and cliffs that soar above the surrounding clay pans and seemingly endless plains stretching westwards...

Story: Mark Daffey

ImageMy new companion is a scruffy-looking type. His matted hair looks like it hasn't been washed for months and he smells like a damp rug.

His teeth are crooked and and his breath exudes an odour powerful enough to wilt a field of pine trees, especially when he belches. And it is no ordinary belch - a throaty growl that erupts from the depths of his four stomachs.

As he gnaws at the rope that ties him to the fence, I recall the phrase "man's not a camel" and thank heaven for that.

But, in spite of unfavorable initial impressions, Bundy is to be my camel for the next five days. I needn't complain. The others in the group fare no better.

Meg, a Canadian more accustomed to mushing sled dogs than traipsing around central Australia on a long-legged ruminant, is partnered by Duke.

Sally is handed the reins to the demure Banshee. Soraya, our camel handler, is dwarfed by the sky scraping Thumper, while our guide, Crispin, is on Shaka, the old bull in the herd. Angelica saddles up on Kamah.

Angelica has barely thrown her leg over Kamah, when the camel bolts. Angelica's arms and legs flay about like an octopus on speed while she struggles to regain control.

Image"Grab the rope and pull it hard to one side," yells Crispin desperately. Before Angelica can respond Kamah stops and glances about confused. The imaginary demons that have chased her have disappeared.

"I can't understand it," says a shaken Angelica. "When I tell my kids what to do, they do it."

Angelica is a primary school teacher from Switzerland and has come to Australia because she wants to visit a country with the type of space her own lacks. She has only seen a camel once before - in a zoo - and the idea of a journey on one sounds romantic.

And what a journey!

The route for the five days is simple. Day one - ride out from the farm, 90 km south of Alice Springs, through the rugged James Ranges to Base Camp on the border of the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve. Days two to four - explore the myriad valleys and hills surrounding our base and return to camp each evening. Day five - follow the Hugh River back to the farm. Story end

Full story: Issue 4 April-May, 1999

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